I know I could graduate two or more semesters early if only I would take summer classes. But I won’t. Two courses a semester on top of working full-time and trying to have a life (and have some fun!) is too stressful and I need the three-month break from formal education, tests, papers, discussion boards, wikis and required reading. I admire and applaud those that go to school year round and know that we all have different goals, restrictions and time frames.

I spent most of this summer on my self-help project. I realized that I needed to let go of some things, move on with others, change some behaviors, and learn why I keep making some of the same mistakes and how to make better choices. I also needed to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.

I did a LOT of reading—blogs, articles, and books. Not all information is good information. In fact, some of it is garbage. However, a little discernment and fact checking can do wonders. A beauty magazine suggested a biotin supplement to improve my soft, splitting nails. Dr. Oz said it was OK. I have been taking it for several months and my nails have improved. Speaking of Dr. Oz, I work in the same complex and happened to be in the elevator with him one morning. He must have been experiencing a bad day, because he was not the same persona as on TV. Excuuuuuse me.

I read all kinds of relationship advice, ranging from carving my initials into the leather seats of someone’s car to reciting the following mantra over and over again: “I’m sorry; please forgive me; I love you; thank you.” Forgiveness of a behavior does not mean acceptance, and it allows the forgiver to find peace and move on. Acknowledging my part in a failed venture and seeking forgiveness for my failures is an important ingredient in recovery. Grudges and holding onto hurts destroy the soul.

I read some excellent books, including one with simple yet creative ideas on how to handle money, a beautifully written but disturbing book about the spiritual, physical, and bureaucratic struggles of inhabitants of a Mumbai slum and a poorly written but “different” trilogy about alternate lifestyles. OK—it was the Fifty Shades of Grey books. The first one was riveting and thought provoking, but the experience became less interesting through book two and turned into a boring, eye-rolling page-turner by the third installment. Part of the problem may have been that I read all three books over a several day marathon. Even though I was number 1,000 something on the New York Public Library e-book list for each book, they happened to become available at the same time and I did not want to have to re-request them and become number 1,000 something again.

I tried some new recipes and made food I enjoy but usually buy prepared or in a restaurant. Hummus did not turn out as good as Sabra’s, but my gazpacho is very tasty (but not as good as Billy’s, the brother of a friend) and my sesame noodles are not bad. Since I had so much leftover fresh ginger from the sesame noodles, I chopped it and added it to boiling water for a few minutes. I ended up with ginger water that tastes great in a tall glass of ice or mixed with tea.

Besides cooking, I took time to enjoy crafts again. I made a few pieces of jewelry, picked up a needlepoint that I hadn’t touched in many years, and will finish (I will finish!) the sweater I started about 10 years ago and left more than half done.

One of the best suggestions I learned on the self-help journey is to expand my social group. Be open to new people, different types of people, other experiences and settings. Meetup.com has a meetup group for any and every interest. Joining a group is free and I now belong to several. I have been on walking tours of lower Manhattan, visited Coney Island and City Island, went out to dinner and brunch, explored my ancestry and did other really interesting things with people I did not know a few months ago. I have old and dear friends, but we don’t have the same interests in everything, the time or the resources. I have made some new friends and I am taking a trip with one of them through our travel meetup group.

I have learned so much through my informal education this summer. I am grateful for everything that has brought me to this point in my life (the good and the bad, because nothing is a mistake if you learn from it) and the sense of accomplishment and empowerment that comes with the ongoing and never ending self-discovery process. The journey is as important, if not more important, than the destination.

Mary Casey is a student in the MS in Business Leadership and Management program at CUNY School of Professional Studies and is an alumna of Lehman College. She is an administrator for a university in NYC. She loves to travel and wants to see as much of the world as possible. Mary created and maintained a community/political blog from 2002 to 2004.

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